Time flies no matter who you are, or what you’re doing, but you’ll never feel more hopeless about it than that moment you take to sit back, breathe, and think about how much your child has grown, right before your eyes. Being a first time mom, perhaps, also entails encountering this feeling at full impact for the first time.
Earlier this year, I became a mother, and so much of it feels like an unbelievable, beautiful blur of memories, diaper changes, and sleeping baby pictures. The whole of my almost 28 years of life before this year seems to exist only in flashes at this point.
When I first began this journey, I was a lot less sure of myself than I am now, but in just the span of less than a year, I’m amazed by how much I’ve evolved as a mother and a person. This is especially true, as parenthood feels a little like I put my foot on the accelerator, and somehow, I guess cut the breaks at the same time.
I think it’s pretty easy to lose oneself in this parenthood thing, especially in the first year of your child’s life, especially if you’re a stay-at-home parent. Full disclosure: I’m aware of my own fault in this, because I’ve not spent more than a couple of hours at a time away from my son since the day he was born, and for a long time, those hours were few and far between… in a span of months. But, I digress, I think everyone can feel as if their entire life has become consumed by parenthood once they enter it, and why wouldn’t they?
We’re trying to keep tiny humans alive. No matter how nonchalant we may act about the whole thing, it’s actually a pretty big deal to people who’ve never done it before. Another issue here is that we are living in the information age, and we know so much more about child development than we’ve ever known before, and the information is so freely available that there are a lot of fears about screwing up the whole thing. I mean, yes, certainly we have more tools available to us than ever before as well, but all of it can feel a little bit overwhelming nonetheless.
My husband and I were gifted a couple of those “What to Expect” parenting books, and we ourselves purchased some books on child development and parenting. Our son is 10 months old, and we’ve not read past page 20 in a single one of these books. In fact, the most helpful piece of “parenting” literature I’ve used this year, during a particularly trying night, was the book “Go the F*ck to Sleep” (I think every first time parent needs this book, by the way, truly a gift to one’s sanity).
It’s not that books, articles, and videos on parenting are unhelpful, but I think in the first year of your child’s life, it feels so hectic just getting your bearings, that there’s not a whole lot of time and space for reading, then attempting to apply theory to life. I’m optimistic that if we haven’t screwed up things too badly, that all of those books on parenting will still come in handy one day.
We really panicked about a few things this year, like our son’s first slight fever that we rushed him to the ER for, only to be told, “Give him some Tylenol, and let him sleep it off.” And the few nights where he fell off a bed or a couch and there would be no sleep for mom, until certain that he was going to live through the next 24 hours. Then there was his getting the flu right before Christmas this year, alerting us to his condition by projectile vomiting every hour, on the hour, for several hours starting on a Monday night.
Through these trying times, we learned a lot about ourselves as parents when faced with adversity, and I’d like to think that we really rose to the challenges, showing how much we love our son and how far we’d go to insure his health and safety. Of course, things were never perfect, but our son’s still alive, and still appears relatively healthy and happy.
Of course there’s more to parenting than simply keeping one’s child alive, or worrying that you’ll mess them up on the child development side of things… there’s so much more, and what there is more of is probably the reason that people jump into parenting so willfully, over and over again. The moments sort of feel like they’re endless, because they fill you up so much when they happen.
Each moment makes your heart feel so full, but some moments have this very perfectly bittersweet essence about them, like the first time your baby rolls over, or crawls, or stands up. Their first smile, their first laugh, those are moments of pure joy because you can’t wait to hear or see more. It’s so exciting to have those lines of communication open to them, but the other things? Rolling over, crawling, standing, walking, are moments that are milestones of their growth.
This growth is inevitable, and of course, essential to them becoming fully functional, and even independent, beings one day. It’s really our job, as parents, to insure that they achieve this functionality, and hopefully contribute something meaningful to this world, all the while, hopefully, cultivating in them spirits of love and happiness. One swells with pride at their child, and at the same time feels the weight of each step your child takes away from you, at the passing of each milestone.
The other day I posted a side by side comparison of myself to my son when I was a baby, the same age as he was, and it struck me, how quickly it seemed my life had gone by. Although it feels like the first year of his life has just sped past me before I could even take a breath, I considered then that I am my mother’s youngest child, and how this must feel to her. I recognize that I’m so not ready to even think about all of the implications of the speed of my own birth to adulthood, so I’m really doing as much as I can to not take for granted the time I’ve got with my son now.
There is a part of me that just wants to live and breathe the time with my son, as a kind of knee-jerk reaction to processing all of this information. But I still have a very definitive need to be my own person, and alongside that, I do have a responsibility to provide an example for my son as a human being and global citizen. It’s extremely difficult at times.
It feels like there’s just so much weight to this “motherhood” thing, with not only raising a child, but also becoming a living guide to their path in life, and to attempt to do it all within the confines of this bullet train of time we’re all standing in. All of that said, I’m standing my ground, and still declare it’s a worthy pursuit. The time flies, but so does your spirit, and all these other wonderful things beside it.